Mocha Dick by Emmanuel Chapalain in Porto Rotondo 0 Comments

Mocha Dick by Emmanuel Chapalain in Porto Rotondo

Along the Via del Molo, in Porto Rotondo, you can admire, stepping on it, images of sharks, tuna fish, swordfish and other varieties of fish swimming in the waves. The eyes of some specimens light up in the evening, making the walk even more evocative and attracting the attention of adults and children.

The Breton artist Emmanuel Chapalain was entrusted with the wonderful and unrepeatable decoration of the street pavement of the Via del Molo. In a wave there is the food chain where the big fish eat the small fish, starting from the imposing sperm whale “Mocha Dick” to the graceful squids that "flee in fear from the voracious mouth of the large cetacean, confirming the ferocious law of mother nature ", to the shark, to the hammerhead fish, and then to tuna and gradually to smaller and smaller fish up to starfish and small shells, till arriving to the port.

Chapalain dedicated the work to Mocha Dick, a magnificent white, albino male sperm whale, who lived in the early 19th century in the Pacific Ocean near Mocha Island, off the coast of southern Chile. Large and imposing, with a body about 21 metres long and a head full of barnacles, small parasitic crustaceans, which gave it an armoured appearance, was able, with its tail blows, to destroy the smallest boats, sinking or also damaging many whalers. Legend gives it the title of having been a "hymn to the freedom to live without being hunted and exterminated".

The hunt for sperm whales, and the Mocha Dick in particular due to its size, began in the early eighteenth century, when it was discovered that sperm whales had two treasures within them: spermaceti and ambergris. Spermaceti, a waxy substance that can be found inside the heads of sperm whales, was sought after for candle making and as fuel for oil lamps in the 19th century. Ambergris, produced and evacuated from the intestine, is a precious ingredient for the perfume industry. It has a strong sweet scent and the property of fixing odours when mixed. Today it is increasingly rare and expensive and a synthetic replacement is being sought. Mocha Dick was eventually killed and 100 barrels of oil and a quantity of ambergris were obtained from it. He also had several harpoons embedded in his body.

Emmanuel Chapalain, created his "street art" using Sardinian granite, yellow sandstone, red porphyry, grey basalt and, for the waves, Orosei marble, but for the eyes of the marine inhabitants, who at night they light up, he chose Murano glass. The artist also collaborated in the creation of the MuMart - Underwater Art Museum of Golfo Aranci with a ten-metre-long stone fishbone.


“...neither of these can feel stranger and stronger emotions than that man does, who for the first time finds himself pulling into the charmed, churned circle of the hunted sperm whale.” (Herman Melville, Moby Dick)

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Written by Daniela Toti

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